In just 50 years a water-rich nation has been reduced to a water-insecure one. By 2025, the per capita availability of water is likely to slip below the critical mark of 1,000 cubic metres. And with 82% of our villages overdrawing groundwater to meet their needs and cities ferrying water from peri-urban areas, India is close to exhausting its groundwater reserves. What has gone wrong?
Inequities in water availability are a reflection of unequal development within the country. 13% of Delhi's citizens do not get water supply every day; 40% of households in Madhya Pradesh are not supplied even 40 litres per person per day. Even if we achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving the population without access to drinking water and sanitation by 2015, 244 million people in rural India and 90 million in urban India will still not have access to safe, sustainable water supply
An average room in a five-star hotel in Delhi consumes 1,600 litres of water every day. VIP residences consume over 30,000 litres per day. But 78% of Delhi's citizens, who live in sub-standard settlements, struggle to collect or buy 30-90 litres per capita per day
In Harijan Basti near Vasant Kunj, Delhi, Simla Devi pays Rs 20 per day for water siphoned off from Delhi Jal Board tankers. Roop Devi from Navjeevan Camp in Govindpur says those who can't afford to buy water secretly fill it up from Bhoomi Camp late at night
Daily wage-earners pay up to 20% of their wages on water; slum-dwellers pay Rs 5 per can of water; others tap into water lines illegally, or pay the local mafia for the supply...These are stories that illustrate the political economy of water that operates in the slums of Mumbai and Pune
Water reform is a Trojan horse utilised by governments, commercial interests and international aid agencies, to turn public resources into profitable enterprises. Today's water wars are sited in cities, not agrarian basins. They are being fought over the control of municipal water systems and services. This article looks at the political economy of public sector water utilities reform in Chennai
A Rs 600-crore tanker industry is capitalising on Chennai's acute water scarcity. Over 13,000 tankers are mining the surrounding farmlands for water. With agriculture in crisis and groundwater levels insufficient for farming, farmers find it easier to live off the money they earn from private water operators
Women in water-starved Bazargaon village in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, walk 15 km a day to fetch water. There is just one public well in this village of 3,000, and that is mostly dry. But the nearby water park, with ice-skating and 18 different kinds of water slides and games, has more water than Bazargaon can dream of
In the years following Independence, India's politicians and bureaucrats seemed to have become victims of what Nehru termed the disease of gigantism, building large dams as monuments to themselves. Four thousand large projects later, and despite huge gaps between promises and performance, that tendency continues, reflected in the recent plan to link India's rivers. How are these decisions to promote large dams taken? Who profits from them and who pays?
Three case studies from Chhattisgarh -- the privatisation of the Sheonath river, the insatiable use of water from the Kelu river by an industry, and the construction of a private dam on the Kurkut river -- clearly illustrate how the political economy is promoting the commodification of water, cornering water for the economic interests of the few at the cost of local communities
When a public good such as water is treated as an economic good, with an economic value and price, water is set to become, like oil, a precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations. No wonder corporations worldwide are battling over a $ 287 billion global water market. This article looks at the major international players in the water market, and charts their rapid growth
Corporate control over water and water distribution in India is growing rapidly: the packaged water business is worth Rs 1,000 crore, and it's growing at a huge 40-50% annually. Around 1,200 bottling plants and 100 brands of packaged water across the country are battling over the market, overdrawing groundwater, and robbing local communities of their water resources and livelihoods
India's National Water Policy of 2002 accords top priority to drinking water. In practice, however, states seem preoccupied with meeting industrial water needs. In Tirupur, Tamil Nadu, 737 textile units consume around 90 million litres -- or 7,500 tanker loads -- of water every day. The unregulated mining of water has sent groundwater levels plummeting to below 800 feet. What is the logic of setting up water-intensive units in water-stressed areas? In accommodating industry, is the government prepared to sacrifice the drinking water needs of entire districts?
Let's face it: water is a commodity. There's nothing wrong with privatisation per se. The debate gets muddled when we fail to see the difference between the privatisation of water, which implies ownership of the resource, and the privatisation of service delivery, such as the purification or distribution of water
It is greed that lies at the heart of water conflicts. Agreements, accords and treaties may temporarily bring peace, but the conflict will erupt again unless we re-define 'development' and learn to view water as a scarce and precious resource to be conserved, protected and used with extreme economy
Gandhian and environmental activist Anupam Mishra has watched closely the ability of local communities to build and sustain ingenious systems for life-support and resource management. He has also watched the state usurping those resources. In this interview, he discusses what happens when, in the race to modernity, the autonomy and rights of the people are abandoned, the rights of ownership are vested only with the government or corporations, and all resources become capital to be exploited
The debate about water continues to be polarised between the view that water is a social good that must be dispensed by the state, and the opposing view that water is an economic good that must be treated as a commodity. Is it time to get away from the sterile debate around social good and economic good, big versus small, and adopt the 'integrationist' viewpoint where water is seen as both a social and an economic need?